As a teenager, Rodney Hurst led many of those lunch counter protests. He shared some of those memories with us:
- "The civil rights movement in the late fifties and early sixties is a history of brave and unselfish Black leaders fighting against racism and segregation, and for the equality of all people in the United States."
- "As a nation, we are acutely familiar with the violent struggles that occurred in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Yet, most do not know that Jacksonville, Florida shared in the cruelties associated with that period."
- "As a member of the Youth Council of Jacksonville’s NAACP, I was one of many who fought social injustice in Jacksonville as earnestly as those on the national level."
- "At age eleven, I joined the Jacksonville Youth Council National Association of Colored People (NAACP) at the invitation of Rutledge Henry Pearson, the Youth Council’s Advisor and my eighth grade American History class instructor. At age 15, I became president of the Youth Council NAACP. By the hundreds, young Blacks in Jacksonville responded to the call of Mr. Pearson to fight racism and segregation through this extraordinary organization."
- "We represented non-violent, church-going, committed, and dignified young people determined to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem."
- "One of the most visible aspects of segregation was at lunch counters. Lunch counters were white only. If segregation sought to remind Blacks of their perceived second-class citizenship in this country, then segregated lunch counters represented visible vestiges that served up daily insults. The time finally came when the Youth Council NAACP simply said “enough is enough.” Disregarding the personal physical peril, we made the decision to confront Jacksonville's segregation laws."
- "In Jacksonville, most of the demonstrators came from Black high schools. The peaceful protests of teenagers who dared to challenge segregated white lunch counters is not a myth or an urban legend."
- "It is important to understand that because the philosophies of the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP and Jacksonville’s political and social establishment were so diametrically opposite, violence may have been inevitable. Yet, in a strange paradox, the violence perpetrated on us that day as Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP members changed the fight for civil rights in Jacksonville."
- "Regardless of what you have heard or seen about sit-in demonstrations at lunch counters, it was never about eating a hot dog and drinking a Coke! It was always about human dignity and respect."
You can read more of Mr. Hurst's reflections on Ax Handle Saturday and Jacksonville's Civil Rights Movement in his book, It Was Never About a Hotdog and a Coke!, or visit RodneyHurst.com.
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